•  2504
    We are addressing this letter to the editors of Philosophical Psychology after reading an article they decided to publish in the recent vol. 33, issue 1. The article is by Nathan Cofnas and is entitled “Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry” (2020). The purpose of our letter is not to invite Cofnas’s contribution into a broader dialogue, but to respectfully voice our concerns about the decision to publish the manuscript, which, in our opinion, fails to meet a r…Read more
  •  1451
    The cultural transmission of theological concepts remains an underexplored topic in the cognitive science of religion (CSR). In this paper, I examine whether approaches from CSR, especially the study of content biases in the transmission of beliefs, can help explain the cultural success of some theological concepts. This approach reveals that there is more continuity between theological beliefs and ordinary religious beliefs than CSR authors have hitherto recognized: the cultural transmission of…Read more
  •  1426
    Mathematical symbols as epistemic actions
    with Johan De Smedt and Helen De Cruz
    Synthese 190 (1): 3-19. 2013.
    Recent experimental evidence from developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience indicates that humans are equipped with unlearned elementary mathematical skills. However, formal mathematics has properties that cannot be reduced to these elementary cognitive capacities. The question then arises how human beings cognitively deal with more advanced mathematical ideas. This paper draws on the extended mind thesis to suggest that mathematical symbols enable us to delegate some mathematical oper…Read more
  •  1295
    Where Philosophical Intuitions Come From
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2): 233-249. 2015.
    Intuitions play a central role in analytic philosophy, but their psychological basis is little understood. This paper provides an empirically-informed, psychological char- acterization of philosophical intuitions. Drawing on McCauley’s distinction between maturational and practiced naturalness, I argue that philosophical intuitions originate from several early-developed, specialized domains of core knowledge (maturational naturalness). Eliciting and deploying such intuitions in argumentative con…Read more
  •  1288
    Prestige Bias: An Obstacle to a Just Academic Philosophy
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5. 2018.
    This paper examines the role of prestige bias in shaping academic philosophy, with a focus on its demographics. I argue that prestige bias exacerbates the structural underrepresentation of minorities in philosophy. It works as a filter against (among others) philosophers of color, women philosophers, and philosophers of low socio-economic status. As a consequence of prestige bias our judgments of philosophical quality become distorted. I outline ways in which prestige bias in philosophy can be …Read more
  •  1042
    A Cognitive Approach to the Earliest Art
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (4): 379-389. 2011.
    This paper takes a cognitive perspective to assess the significance of some Late Palaeolithic artefacts (sculptures and engraved objects) for philosophicalconcepts of art. We examine cognitive capacities that are necessary to produceand recognize objects that are denoted as art. These include the ability toattribute and infer design (design stance), the ability to distinguish between themateriality of an object and its meaning (symbol-mindedness), and an aesthetic sensitivity to some perceptual …Read more
  •  839
    The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments
    Philosophy Compass 9 (2): 145-153. 2014.
    Natural theology is the branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to gain knowledge of God through non-revealed sources. In a narrower sense, natural theology is the discipline that presents rational arguments for the existence of God. Given that these arguments rarely directly persuade those who are not convinced by their conclusions, why do they enjoy an enduring appeal? This article examines two reasons for the continuing popularity of natural theological arguments: (i) they appeal to i…Read more
  •  814
    Hume was a cognitive scientist of religion avant la lettre. His Natural History of Religion (1757 [2007]) locates the origins of religion in human nature. This paper explores similarities between some of his ideas and the cognitive science of religion, the multidisciplinary study of the psychological origins of religious beliefs. It also considers Hume’s distinction between two questions about religion: its foundation in reason (the domain of natural theology and philosophy of religion) and its …Read more
  •  801
    Religious disagreement is an emerging topic of interest in social epistemology. Little is known about how philosophers react to religious disagreements in a professional context, or how they think one should respond to disagreement. This paper presents results of an empirical study on religious disagreement among philosophers. Results indicate that personal religious beliefs, philosophical training, and recent changes in religious outlook have a significant impact on philosophers' assessments of…Read more
  •  742
    The Epistemic Value of Speculative Fiction
    Midwest Studies in Philosophy 39 (1): 58-77. 2015.
    Speculative fiction, such as science fiction and fantasy, has a unique epistemic value. We examine similarities and differences between speculative fiction and philosophical thought experiments in terms of how they are cognitively processed. They are similar in their reliance on mental prospection, but dissimilar in that fiction is better able to draw in readers (transportation) and elicit emotional responses. By its use of longer, emotionally poignant narratives and seemingly irrelevant detail…Read more
  •  718
    Religious Beliefs and Philosophical Views: A Qualitative Study
    Res Philosophica 95 (3): 477-504. 2018.
    Philosophy of religion is often regarded as a philosophical discipline in which irrelevant influences, such as upbringing and education, play a pernicious role. This paper presents results of a qualitative survey among academic philosophers of religion to examine the role of such factors in their work. In light of these findings, I address two questions: an empirical one (whether philosophers of religion are influenced by irrelevant factors in forming their philosophical attitudes) and an episte…Read more
  •  713
    Reformed and evolutionary epistemology and the noetic effects of sin
    International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (1): 49-66. 2013.
    Despite their divergent metaphysical assumptions, Reformed and evolutionary epistemologists have converged on the notion of proper basicality. Where Reformed epistemologists appeal to God, who has designed the mind in such a way that it successfully aims at the truth, evolutionary epistemologists appeal to natural selection as a mechanism that favors truth-preserving cognitive capacities. This paper investigates whether Reformed and evolutionary epistemological accounts of theistic belief are co…Read more
  •  650
    Delighting in natural beauty: Joint attention and the phenomenology of nature aesthetics
    with Johan De Smet
    European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 5 (4): 167-186. 2013.
    Empirical research in the psychology of nature appreciation suggests that humans across cultures tend to evaluate nature in positive aesthetic terms, including a sense of beauty and awe. They also frequently engage in joint attention with other persons, whereby they are jointly aware of sharing attention to the same event or object. This paper examines how, from a natural theological perspective, delight in natural beauty can be conceptualized as a way of joining attention to creation. Drawing o…Read more
  •  558
    Is teaching children young earth creationism child abuse?
    The Philosophers' Magazine 63 21-23. 2013.
    Richard Dawkins has argued on several occasions that bringing up your child religiously is a form of child abuse. According to Dawkins, teaching children about religion is fine (it helps them to understand cultural references, for instance), but indoctrinating children – by which Dawkins means any form of education that teaches religious beliefs as facts – is morally wrong and harmful. Dawkins is not alone: the American theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, for instance, recently argued that te…Read more
  •  502
    Numerical cognition and mathematical realism
    Philosophers' Imprint 16. 2016.
    Humans and other animals have an evolved ability to detect discrete magnitudes in their environment. Does this observation support evolutionary debunking arguments against mathematical realism, as has been recently argued by Clarke-Doane, or does it bolster mathematical realism, as authors such as Joyce and Sinnott-Armstrong have assumed? To find out, we need to pay closer attention to the features of evolved numerical cognition. I provide a detailed examination of the functional properties of e…Read more
  •  483
    There is a large gap between the specialized knowledge of scientists and laypeople’s understanding of the sciences. The novice-expert problem arises when non-experts are confronted with (real or apparent) scientific disagreement, and when they don’t know whom to trust. Because they are not able to gauge the content of expert testimony, they rely on imperfect heuristics to evaluate the trustworthiness of scientists. This paper investigates why some bodies of scientific knowledge become polarized …Read more
  •  454
    [from the publisher's website] Questions about the existence and attributes of God form the subject matter of natural theology, which seeks to gain knowledge of the divine by relying on reason and experience of the world. Arguments in natural theology rely largely on intuitions and inferences that seem natural to us, occurring spontaneously—at the sight of a beautiful landscape, perhaps, or in wonderment at the complexity of the cosmos—even to a nonphilosopher. In this book, Helen De Cruz and Jo…Read more
  •  338
    Religious Disagreement
    Cambridge University Press. 2019.
    This Element examines what we can learn from religious disagreement, focusing on disagreement with possible selves and former selves, the epistemic significance of religious agreement, the problem of disagreements between religious experts, and the significance of philosophy of religion. Helen De Cruz shows how religious beliefs of others constitute significant higher-order evidence. At the same time, she advises that we should not necessarily become agnostic about all religious matters, because…Read more
  •  312
    Religious Conversion, Transformative Experience, and Disagreement
    Philosophia Christi 20 (1): 265-276. 2018.
    Religious conversion gives rise to disagreement with one’s former self and with family and friends. Because religious conversion is personally and epistemically transformative, it is difficult to judge whether a former epistemic peer is still one’s epistemic peer post-conversion, just like it is hard for the convert to assess whether she is now in a better epistemic position than prior to her conversion. Through Augustine’s De Utilitate Credendi (The Usefulness of Belief) I show that reasoned ar…Read more
  •  279
    Etiological challenges to religious practices
    American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (4). 2018.
    There is a common assumption that evolutionary explanations of religion undermine religious beliefs. Do etiological accounts similarly affect the rationality of religious practices? To answer this question, this paper looks at two influential evolutionary accounts of ritual, the hazard-precaution model and costly signaling theory. It examines whether Cuneo’s account of ritual knowledge as knowing to engage God can be maintained in the light of these evolutionary accounts. While the evolutionary …Read more
  •  273
    Evolved cognitive biases and the epistemic status of scientific beliefs
    Philosophical Studies 157 (3): 411-429. 2012.
    Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show th…Read more
  •  260
    More than provocative, less than scientific: A commentary on the editorial decision to publish Cofnas
    with Rasmus Rosenberg Larsen, Jonathan Kaplan, Agustín Fuentes, Jonathan Marks, Massimo Pigliucci, Mark Alfano, David Livingstone Smith, and Lauren Schroeder
    Philosophical Psychology 33 (7): 893-898. 2020.
    This letter addresses the editorial decision to publish the article, “Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry” (Cofnas, 2020). Our letter points out several critical problems with Cofnas's article, which we believe should have either disqualified the manuscript upon submission or been addressed during the review process and resulted in substantial revisions.
  •  237
    An enduring puzzle in philosophy and developmental psychology is how young children acquire number concepts, in particular the concept of natural number. Most solutions to this problem conceptualize young learners as lone mathematicians who individually reconstruct the successor function and other sophisticated mathematical ideas. In this chapter, I argue for a crucial role of testimony in children’s acquisition of number concepts, both in the transfer of propositional knowledge (e.g., the cardi…Read more
  •  232
    The Challenge of Evolution to Religion
    Cambridge University Press. 2020.
    This Element focuses on three challenges of evolution to religion: teleology, human origins, and the evolution of religion itself. First, religious worldviews tend to presuppose a teleological understanding of the origins of living things, but scientists mostly understand evolution as non-teleological. Second, religious and scientific accounts of human origins do not align in a straightforward sense. Third, evolutionary explanations of religion, including religious beliefs and practices, may cas…Read more
  •  221
    Is intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous?
    In William Gibson, Dan O'brien & Marius Turda (eds.), Teleology and Modernity, Routledge. pp. 185-202. 2020.
    Humans have a tendency to reason teleologically. This tendency is more pronounced under time pressure, in people with little formal schooling and in patients with Alzheimer’s. This has led some cognitive scientists of religion, notably Kelemen, to call intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous, by which they mean teleology is applied to domains where it is unwarranted. We examine these claims using Kant’s idea of the transcendental illusion in the first Critique and his views on the regulativ…Read more
  •  208
    Animal Cognition, Species Invariantism, and Mathematical Realism
    In Andrew Aberdein & Matthew Inglis (eds.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics, Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 39-61. 2019.
    What can we infer from numerical cognition about mathematical realism? In this paper, I will consider one aspect of numerical cognition that has received little attention in the literature: the remarkable similarities of numerical cognitive capacities across many animal species. This Invariantism in Numerical Cognition (INC) indicates that mathematics and morality are disanalogous in an important respect: proto-moral beliefs differ substantially between animal species, whereas proto-mathematical…Read more
  •  202
    Intuitions and Arguments: Cognitive Foundations of Argumentation in Natural Theology
    European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (2): 57-82. 2017.
    This paper examines the cognitive foundations of natural theology: the intuitions that provide the raw materials for religious arguments, and the social context in which they are defended or challenged. We show that the premises on which natural theological arguments are based rely on intuitions that emerge early in development, and that underlie our expectations for everyday situations, e.g., about how causation works, or how design is recognized. In spite of the universality of these intuition…Read more
  •  202
    Evolutionary Approaches to Epistemic Justification
    with Maarten Boudry, Johan de Smedt, and Stefaan Blancke
    Dialectica 65 (4): 517-535. 2011.
    What are the consequences of evolutionary theory for the epistemic standing of our beliefs? Evolutionary considerations can be used to either justify or debunk a variety of beliefs. This paper argues that evolutionary approaches to human cognition must at least allow for approximately reliable cognitive capacities. Approaches that portray human cognition as so deeply biased and deficient that no knowledge is possible are internally incoherent and self-defeating. As evolutionary theory offers the…Read more
  •  192
    This paper examines the role of awe and wonder in scientific practice. Drawing on evidence from psychological research and the writings of scientists and science communicators, I argue that awe and wonder play a crucial role in scientific discovery. They focus our attention on the natural world, encourage open-mindedness, diminish the self (particularly feelings of self-importance), help to accord value to the objects that are being studied, and provide a mode of understanding in the absence of…Read more